If you feel compelled to take a gander at Shawn Levy’s IMDB page, you’ll see that he has directed such classics as the remake of The Pink Panther, Cheaper by the Dozen, and both Night at the Museum movies. And if Tina Fey and Steve Carell weren’t in Date Night, it too would have been another movie stuck in comedy hell.
It becomes obvious right away that a plot this thin would have to be saved by the quality of the movie’s two leads. Much of the time, Carell and Fey are left to their own devices in a scene, free to throw around jokes that were obviously not in the script, therefore making the thought of what this could have been very frightening. The chemistry between Fey and Carell, who play a bored married couple just looking to have one good night together, is incredibly believable and fun to watch, which certainly goes a long way. This is a PG-13 comedy, however, so there are obviously some limitations; though if this a precursor to any more Fey-Carell team-ups, it’s exciting to see what they could do with more freedom.
The rest of the cast really does not have much to work with here – though a great scene with James Franco comes to mind – and this is not a movie free of clichés, like Claire Foster (Fey) acting like a giddy teenager when she sees Mark Wahlberg shirtless. That’s not the only groan-worthy sequence in the film, because there are definitely some lame attempts at broader humor, but that’s to be expected in a movie like this. If you can make it through those, you’ll be rewarded, because, again, Fey and Carell are impressive. It’s the typical, “go in with realistic expectations and you’ll be pleasantly surprised” advice.
On the other hand, Date Night is slightly disappointing in the sense that the movie easily could have been funnier. It doesn’t exactly feel like a complete loss, and this will have to do until we see something like a Carell-Fey team-up again. This isn’t a terrible movie by any means – it’s simply a lightweight comedy that showcases the talents of two of the better comedians working today. Steve Carell has already proven himself in both TV and film, but I feel as if Tina Fey needed something like Date Night to really propel herself further into being a bona fide movie star. Despite Date Night’s shortcomings, what it might lead to in the future for its leads makes it that much better.